Geena Rocero Is The Transgender Model Using Her Privilege To Advocate For Change

“I was not born a boy,” Geena Rocero said. “I was assigned boy at birth.” The successful fashion model revealed she was transgender to the public for the first time at the TED2014 conference in Vancouver – an act that was not only a major milestone for her, but for the entire transgender community as well. “I am a girl,” Geena bravely spoke. 

It was this speech that inspired people both inside and outside the transgender community, including Caitlyn Jenner. In the Vanity Fair short film, “Call Me Caitlyn,” Jenner revealed that she looks up to Geena, saying, “You look at some of the pioneers – Laverne Cox, Geena Rocero and Carmen Carrera – they made it easier for me.” After the famed Diane Sawyer interview, Geena got a phone call from Jenner, asking her to come visit her Malibu home. “She was so beautiful when I met her in person,” Geena recounts of Jenner. “You could really feel this person is free.”  

“She is really getting to know the community, [and] now that she’s met all of these transgender people of different social economic privilege, I hope it’ll enlighten her of the cultural and structural oppression that Trans people of color face.”

When asked about her feelings regarding Caitlyn Jenner identifying as a Republican, Geena speaks up. “Here’s the deal: Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery to share her truth has influenced more conversations on Transgender Issues. At the time when she said that, She had just started her journey. She’s obviously entitled to that opinion. She is really getting to know the community, [and] now that she’s met all of these transgender people of different social economic backgrounds, I hope it’ll enlighten her more of the cultural and structural oppression that Trans people of color face.” She continues, “[Jenner] has acknowledged her privilege. Her story is just one of many experiences and voices that needs to be heard. Allies who want to support the transgender community have to start paying attention and learn the diverse experience of the Trans community and be part of the conversation.”

“I’m very dark. That is part of my identity and I’m proud of it.”

As a child growing up in a working class neighborhood in the Philippines, Geena was asked to participate in transgender beauty pageants. “I never really thought of myself as beautiful when I was young, but joining the pageants allowed me to express myself and to gain better self confidence,” she says. Although Geena became more comfortable with herself, her self-esteem was still fragile. “I used to bleach my skin when I was doing pageants because that was the ideal beauty,” she explains. Pageants provided an outlet of self-expression for Geena and an escape from the often-harsh world we live in. “I remember walking down the street and having people scream ‘bakla’ at me, which means ‘gay’ but is actually used more like the word ‘faggot,’” she recalls. “I felt so connected by the pageants. I could finally express myself and live as the woman that I am. I was a transgender beauty pageant queen.” Between the pageants and a successful modeling career, Geena’s idea of beauty has shifted. “I’m very dark. That is part of my identity and I’m proud of it.”

Geena’s privilege might differ from Jenner’s, but that isn’t going to stop her from making a difference. That’s why Geena founded Gender Proud – an aim to change the global perception of and conversation about transgender individuals. “Being able to walk down the street and survive is a privilege,” she says. “I want to use it to tell people stories and advocate for change.” 

swimsuit American Apparel; jewelry Alexis Bittar; shoes Malone Souliers

swimsuit Red Carter; handchain ivi

swimsuit Red Carter; handchain ivi

swimsuit Echo Design

swimsuit Rise City; necklaces Alexis Bittar

swimsuit Rise City; necklaces Alexis Bittar

swimsuit Mara Hoffman; necklaces Alexis Bittar; shoes Malone Souliers

swimsuit Mara Hoffman; necklaces Alexis Bittar; shoes Malone Souliers

Photography by Ellen Stagg

Styling by Rose Garcia

Hair and Makeup by Theo Kogan using Armour Beauty


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